Tournament Tales: Danny Green

How in the world did a team with a GM from Duke wind up with so many Tar Heels?

The Cavaliers have three members of the prestigious program from Chapel Hill – Antawn Jamison, Jawad Williams and the subject of today’s Tournament Tale: rookie Danny Green.

All three played in the Final Four and two of them won National Championships – Green, just last season.

As a rare four-year man, the Long Island native has plenty of experience in the Big Dance, going 14-3 in Tournament games before winning the 2009 title, 89-72, over Michigan State.

Among those 17 games, he’s seen a lot. As a freshman, his Tar Heels were ousted by that year’s Cinderella story – George Mason. The next year, they were eliminated in an epic overtime loss to Georgetown. As a junior, it was former Cavalier, Darnell Jackson’s eventual-Champion Kansas Jayhawks in the Final Four.

By his senior season, Green’s days of coming up short in the Tourney were over. Green’s Tar Heels – boasting future first-rounders Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington – rumbled their way to the 2009 title. They throttled Radford by 43, Marcus Thornton’s LSU squad by 14, Austin Daye’s Gonzaga Bulldogs by 21 and Blake Griffin’s Oklahoma team by a dozen.

In the Final Four in Detroit, the beat went on, with North Carolina thumping Villanova by two touchdowns before beating the Spartans by 17 to win it all.

Green averaged exactly 12.0 ppg through the NCAA Tourney as a senior and left UNC having played in (145) and won (123) more games than anyone in the storied history of the program.

The versatile rookie took a moment to look back to his collegiate days in today’s Tournament Tale …

Previous Tournament Tales: Daniel Gibson | Jawad Williams | Mo Williams | Chris Jent

How big was it to close out a four-year career with a win in your final game?

Danny Green: It was great, man. It’s something I’ll always remember, of course. It’s something a lot of people will remember. It goes down in history.

The way we won was different than a lot of college teams. We had a great year and to end my college career with a ‘W’ says a lot. And it means a lot to me. We had a lot of fun. It was exciting. And like I said, it’s something to remember the rest of my life.

At UNC, you didn’t know what it was like to NOT be in the Tournament …

Green: I was in all four years. My freshman year I think I played more than in my sophomore year. My freshman year we lost to George Mason and that was the year George Mason made it to the Final Four. They beat us to get to the Sweet 16.

Was there any comfort, at least in seeing George Mason go that far?

Green: No, not really. Because it lets us know that we could have done what they did that year.

Did that loss affect the team the following year?

Green: We learned the next year. We had some guys come in and we had a good squad. But we lost to Georgetown. So each year we got better and went further in the Tournament. And my senior year, we finished it off.

It was a good process. I’ve experienced all ends of the Tournament.

Is senior leadership a big thing in the final stages of the Tournament?

Green: I would say so. We were so lucky and so talented that I was able to be in the Tournament every year. For seniors, it’s important to perform well for your team, because it’s your last year. You want to do well and be remembered.

Is there pressure from the famous North Carolina alumni?

Green: Maybe. But they just expect talented guys to do well. But there’s no more pressure than you might get from your family or from yourself, being a competitor, wanting to win. You have a job to do. And there’s pressure in everything you do.

Do they provide support?

Green: They definitely do. There are Carolina guys all over this league; all over this country. It’s great. We all support each other and I’m really glad I went to school there.

Was it a good experience for UNC to play in the NIT this year?

Green: It doesn’t mean as much as the Tournament. But it helped them a lot. They’ve gotten a lot better throughout this Tournament and I think it’ll help them for next year. They were actually having fun together.

Earlier this season, they were losing a lot. They were depressed. Talking with them, they weren’t finding a lot of fun in basketball.

So – between your team and Jawad’s – which National Championship team was better?

Green: Yeah, definitely ours. Look at the statistics and the margin of victory in the year we won the Tournament versus the way they won the Tournament. I think we did it a lot easier than they did.

I’m sure Jawad thinks their team had more talent. Both teams were great teams, but I think we were more of a dominant team.

Who do you like this weekend?

Green: I’m going with West Virginia or Butler. But it’s not going to surprise me whoever wins this year.